by Lisa Tome
In his day job, North East Police Chief Darrell Hamilton knows who has been naughty and nice.
In his volunteer Santa detail, Hamilton just assumes everyone has done their best to be good.
About 15 years ago, Hamilton, who is Maryland's longest standing police chief, signed on to play Santa after officials in North East began planning the creation of the annual Santa House. Hamilton has since expanded his appearances beyond the North East community.
This year, he returned to the Santa House for several appearances. He also heard wish lists at New Bridge Baptist Church in Rising Sun, the Ravens Roost children's breakfast at American Legion Post 194, the North East Boys & Girls Club Unit, and for senior citizens at a Seniors and Lawmen Together (SALT) event.
"I enjoy doing it. It's all about the children and the look on their faces.
“Children seeing Santa have a glow on their face. It's just fun doing that. And I love doing it for seniors," said Hamilton.
All of his Santa appointments are volunteer. He bought his own suit and his wife, Connie, keeps track of when and where he will be appearing.
She also helps Santa to look his best. "She helps me get the suit on and makes sure everything is correct," he said. "I just love doing it. It never gets old. When you sit in that seat, there is nothing else like it."
He said that young children are often nervous when they meet Santa for the first time. He works to ease their fears. "Both the police chief and Santa help people," he said.
He said in recent years a trend has been for people to have their pets photographed with St. Nick. "I'm seeing more and more people come to the Santa House with their pets. I have dogs of my own and I just love that," said Hamilton.